Home Secretary James Cleverly has apologised for using "unparliamentary language" but denied calling a North East town a "s***hole" at Prime Minister's Questions this week.

Mr Cleverly has been under pressure to say sorry after claims that he called Alex Cunningham's Stockton North constituency a "s***hole". However, a source close to the home secretary, who replaced Suella Braverman in a parliamentary reshuffle on November 13, said his off-the-cuff remark in the Commons had been directed towards the MP, rather than his constituency.

A source close to Mr Cleverly said: "James made a comment. He called Alex Cunningham a s*** MP. He apologises for unparliamentary language.

"As was made clear yesterday, he would never criticise Stockton. He’s campaigned in Stockton and is clear that it is a great place."

Mr Cleverly has been under pressure to apologise over the alleged insult about Stockton, including from Lord Ben Houchen, the Tess Valley Conservative mayor. Labour MP Mr Cunningham had alleged the comment was made about his constituency when he challenged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over the level of child poverty in his North East seat.

Mr Cunningham told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he did not believe the Home Secretary. He said: "He hasn’t made an apology to me.

"His apology is for using unparliamentary language. But I don’t want an apology for him claiming to have insulted me, I want an apology for the people of my communities.

"My colleagues who actually saw the mouth move and hear the words come out, they believe he said that particular expression, and on that basis I don’t think he is a person fit for such high office and he really needs to consider what he is going to do about it."

Alex Cunningham
Alex Cunningham

Lord Houchen said he accepted the apology, while Rishi Sunak continues to have confidence in the Home Secretary, 11 days after his appointment, Number 10 said. The Tees Valley mayor posted on X, formerly Twitter: "Whatever was said, the speculation dragged Stockton’s name through the mud, which is unacceptable. We’re all human & he’s a good guy who made a mistake."

The issue was raised in the Commons on Thursday, with Labour calling for an apology from Mr Cleverly. Lucy Powell, shadow commons leader, said: "Besmirching another honourable member’s constituency goes against all the courtesies of this place and it is utterly disrespectful to their constituents."

Penny Mordaunt, Commons leader, replied: "With regard to the charge she makes against the Home Secretary, he denies it and I believe him."

Join our WhatsApp communities

WhatsApp has made a change to its group chats

ChronicleLive is now on WhatsApp and we want you to join our communities.

We have a number of communities to join, so you can choose which one you want to be part of and we'll send you the latest news direct to your phone. You could even join them all!

To join you need to have WhatsApp on your device. All you need to do is choose which community you want to join, click on the link and press 'join community'.

No one will be able to see who is signed up and no one can send messages except the ChronicleLive team.

We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners.

If you don't like our community, you can check out any time you like. To leave our community click on the name at the top of your screen and choose 'exit group'.

If you’re curious, you can read our privacy notice.

Join the ChronicleLive Breaking News and Top Stories community

Join our Christmas and New Year in the North East community

Join our I'm A Celebrity community for all the latest updates from the jungle

Join the Things to do in Newcastle and the North East community

Join our Northumberland community

Join our Great North Run community

Join our NUFC community

Join our SAFC community